Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Inn at Lydda

NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH: THE INN AT LYDDA, by John Wolfson, is playing at the Liverpool Playhouse this autumn:
John Wolfson’s play The Inn at Lydda will be performed in the Playhouse in September (Full dates TBC). John is Honorary Curator of Rare Books for the Globe, a playwright and author of William Shakespeare and the Short Story Collections. Based on a reference in the New Testament Apocrypha, the play follows Tiberius Caesar and a remarkable meeting with Jesus Christ in Judea. Having opened the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in 2014, the Globe is now actively planning its very own library and archive on site, on London’s Bankside. John has generously agreed to bequeath to the Globe an important collection of rare and valuable volumes, including a First Folio and Quarto editions. Having these texts will cement the Globe’s reputation as the first point of reference for teaching, research and interpretation of Shakespeare in performance.
Additional details are here:
Based on a story in the New Testament Apocrypha (The Death of Pilate), written in 1997. The play follows the story of Tiberius Caesar who learns of a healer in Judea called Jesus. Being ill of a fistula, Caesar sets sail for the Holy Land to be healed, not realising that Jesus has been crucified a few days before. But as Caesar arrives in Judea some time between the Resurrection and the Ascension, a remarkable meeting between Caesar and Christ takes place.
Cross-file under "Theatre."

New online journal on the Jesus movement in its Jewish setting

LARRY HURTADO: New Online-Access Journal.
There is a recently-launched online and open-access journal that looks very promising, to judge from the most recent issue: Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting, From the First to the Seventh Century. ...

CFP: “The Dead Sea Scrolls and Hellenism”

CONFERENCE: “The Dead Sea Scrolls and Hellenism” Groningen – Leuven Encounters on the Dead Sea Scrolls. The conference takes place on 13-14 April 2016 in Groningen. The deadline for receipt of paper proposals is 15 February 2016. Follow the link for further particulars.

Ben Dov on the Watchers and Mesopotamian inscriptions

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Is the Watcher/Fallen Angel Myth a reinterpretation of Mesopotamian inscriptions?
Jonathan Ben-Dov (University of Haifa) has developed a very interesting theory about the origin of the early Jewish tradition of the Fallen Angels and Giants. He presented it at Boston College on November 20, 2013, in a paper entitled “Iconography and Myth: From Nebuchadnezzar to the Fallen Angels”.

Follow the link for the video. A past post on Ben Dov's theory is here.

Punic death metal

PUNIC WATCH: KATAKLYSM Frontman's EX DEO Project To Release 'The Immortal Wars' Album In February 2017 (
EX DEO, the reactivated Ancient Roman-themed arsenal fronted by KATAKLYSM singer Maurizio Iacono, will release its new studio album, "The Immortal Wars", in February 2017 via Napalm Records. The CD's main concept will deal with Punic Wars, a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 B.C. to 146 B.C. The epic legendary wars will come to life and bring the showdown between two of the greatest generals that ever walked the earth, Hannibal and Scipio Africanus, both of whom rewrote the rules of war and strategies. The album will also feature other unexplored subjects on Ancient Rome surely to raise the epic level to the maximum.

There's more on KATAKLYSM here.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Announcement: T. J. Lang

The School of Divinity is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr T.J. Lang as Lecturer in New Testament, starting in August 2016.

Dr Lang comes to St Andrews from Durham University, where he was Lecturer in New Testament Studies. Dr Lang's PhD is in New Testament and Early Christianity from Duke University. He is the author of Mystery and the Making of a Christian Historical Consciousness: From Paul to the Second Century (de Gruyter, 2015) and articles published or forthcoming in journals such as Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Biblical Interpretation, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, Journal of Theological Studies, and New Testament Studies.

Dr Lang is interested in supervising PhD students in a range of areas related to the New Testament and early Christianity and is happy to discuss proposals with potential students. The focus of his research, however, has been on Paul and the reception history of Pauline traditions, the Synoptic Gospels and John, and second-century Christianity. His current research is on Paul’s conception of time and history and broader issues of Christian epistemology. We look forward to welcoming him here in the summer.
Very good news indeed.

Laser preservation

Cultural organizations are working with Iraqi and Syrian experts, drawing on local knowledge and providing equipment and training, to create digital records of endangered ancient sites.
Cross file under Technology Watch. Background here and here and links.

Review of Gager, Who Made Early Christianity?

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Gager, Who Made Early Christianity? (Brian Leport).

Past posts on the book are here and links.

What will happen to the Iraqi Jewish archive?

STILL IN LIMBO: Who should keep Iraqi Jewry’s archives, saved from Saddam, now on tour in US? The future of a unique collection, salvaged in a ‘Monuments Men-style’ rescue from a secret police HQ in Baghdad, 2003, is up for grabs (Rich Tenorio, Times of Israel).
The collection was waterlogged and damaged, and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq placed an urgent call to the United States National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland. With permission from local officials, the treasures were soon airlifted to the US in a special rescue operation.

At a cost of $3 million, the collection of over 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries has been preserved, cataloged and digitized. Today, some are being shown in an exhibition touring the US until they are ultimately to be returned to the Iraqi National Archives in Baghdad.

“There is no date,” said US National Archives exhibit director Lisa Royse about the exact time the collection is to be returned to Iraq. “[For now] they are willing to let us extend the archive’s time in the US.”

A long article that covers the story in detail from its beginning to the present. And the following is noteworthy:
Several individuals who were present when the collection was discovered during the Iraq War, however, have voiced concern over what will happen once the tour ends.

The US tour is scheduled to end in the summer of 2016 and at some point following, the exhibition is planned to be shown at the Iraqi National Archives in Baghdad. “That’s its final venue,” exhibit director Royse said.

Some have called for a permanent destination outside Iraq — either in the US or Israel.

“To whom does it belong?” asked Rhode, who has grappled with this question ever since he navigated in waist-deep waters to rescue a floating Torah scroll in Iraq over a decade ago. “The answer, to me, is that it belongs to the people who used it, the Jews of Iraq… It belongs to them, not the Iraqi government.”

‘When you take over a country, you can’t steal its treasures’
Rhode and others believe the time is ripe to reexamine the terms of the agreement under which the artifacts arrived in the US.


It seems to me that the material ought to belong to the Jewish community, the Iraqi Jewish community,” Miller said, adding that there are more Iraqi Jews now in the US than in Baghdad.

Former Pentagon official Harold Rhode studies an artifact from the Jewish community of Iraq in the basement of Saddam Hussein's secret police headquarters on May 6, 2003, Baghdad, Iraq. (Courtesy: Richard Gonzales)
Former Pentagon official Harold Rhode studies an artifact from the Iraqi Jewish community cache on May 6, 2003, Baghdad, Iraq. (Courtesy: Richard Gonzales)

In Rhode’s opinion, the ideal destination for the collection is the Museum of Babylonian Jewry outside Tel Aviv. “It’s the only museum of Iraqi Jewish heritage that exists,” he said.

Background here, with links going back to the discovery of the archive in 2003. And I have given some of my own reflections on how to proceed at the links at the bottom of this post.

Good going, ancient Romans!

THE GOOD OLD DAYS: What Did the Ancient Romans Do for Us? They Gave Us Parasites. 'Clean' ancient Romans were crawling with worms, lice and fleas despite their baths, sewage systems and toilets, study proves (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
The people of ancient Rome were famed not only for their licentiousness but for their sanitation. Public baths were legion throughout the Roman Empire, and the Romans are also credited with introducing toilets and sewers to European towns some 2,000 years ago. Yet the Romans turn out to have been even more worm-infested than their unwashed peers, and also compared with earlier peoples, say archaeologists.

At least they probably smelled better, says Piers Mitchell of the Cambridge Archaeology and Anthropology Department.

The reasons for the pest infestations were apparently not that they didn’t know how to bathe, but they didn't realize the way they did it and other habits of theirs supported the life-cycle of parasites.

A review of Mitchell's book is noted here. Some past posts of related interest are here, here, here, and here. And, of course, there is this.

As I have said before, the ancients lived in a world whose casual degradation and brutality is hard for us to imagine.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

More 2015 archaeology lists

BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries of 2015 (Todd Bolen). The post includes the Christianity Today top 10 list and the Haaretz list, but also others that have not been noted by PaleoJudaica.

More on Schechter's centennial yahrzeit

CONFERENCE REPORT: Schechter kin observe scholar’s yahrtzeit. At Cambridge seminar, local rabbi is reminded of ancestor’s impact (Robert Wiener, NJJN Staff Writer).
A century after the death of Solomon Schechter, the Judaics scholar who revitalized Conservative Judaism, his descendants paid homage to his memory at Cambridge University in England.

Among them was his great-grandson, Rabbi John Schechter of Congregation B’nai Israel in Basking Ridge, who earned his ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where Solomon Schechter served as president from 1902 to 1915.

Along with his wife, Cantor Erica Lippitz of Oheb Shalom Congregation in South Orange, John Schechter attended the second of two conferences observing his forebear’s 100th yahrtzeit.

The day-long gathering in England, held Nov. 22 at the Divinity School at St. John’s College, featured presentations on Solomon Schechter’s impact on the study of Jewish antiquity and on contemporary scholarship and religious thought. Arriving in the United States in 1902, Schechter transformed JTS into a locus for Jewish scholarship and rabbinic training.

For John Schechter and Lippitz, the highlight of the visit was examining some of the 193,000 sacred and secular texts and documents that the elder Schechter shipped to Cambridge from among the 300,000 items he famously explored in 1896-97 after their discovery in the Cairo Geniza.

Background here and links.


HEBREW ETYMOLOGY: Bernie Sanders Takes a Bite out of Bible With Attack on 'Usury' (Aviya Kushner, The Forward).

Masters of magic?

YES. NEXT QUESTION? WERE CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS AND JEWS MASTERS OF MAGIC? (ELISA MEYER, World Religion News). Some of them were. A few of them — and others — still are.

Background here and here. And on my last point see, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Ten years of ETC

CELEBRATION: Happy New ETC Year! (Tommy Wasserman).
Welcome to a new year with the ETC blog and lots of textual criticism!

At the SBL meeting in Atlanta, we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the blog at the annual ETC blogdinner, and the founding father Peter Williams held a speech looking back at the ten years and ahead into the future. Incidentally, we celebrated the 5-year anniversary at the SBL meeting 2010, held in Atlanta too.

We did not make much of the 10-year anniversary here on the blog, but I thought it would be nice to note a few things (better late than never):


Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Interview with Lawrence Schiffman

BERNARD STARR: Bible Expert's Surprising Findings About Jews and Judaism Revealed in the New Testament (HuffPo).
It's well known that Christianity sprang from a Jewish context. While there may be controversy about Jesus' Judaism vs. the traditional Judaism of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Judaism in the first century, there's no doubt that Jesus, his family, and followers were practicing Jews, as recorded in the New Testament.

Biblical scholar Lawrence H. Schiffman, Judge Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and Director of the Global Network for Advanced Research in Jewish Studies at New York University (NYU), takes this understanding to a new level. He identifies citations in the New Testament that others have glossed over without recognizing their unique significance. On March 26-27, 2015, at a conference at NYU, "Integrating Christianity and Judaism into the Study of the Ancient World," Professor Schiffman delivered a talk titled "The New Testament as a Source for the History of the Jews and Judaism."

I interviewed Professor Schiffman to gain further insight into his perspective on this fascinating subject.
The text of the interview follows. The conference was noted as upcoming here.

More on Rosh HaAyin

LIVESCIENCE: Photos: Ancient Farmhouse and Church Uncovered in Israel (Mindy Weisberger).
As the city of Rosh Ha-'Ayin in central Israel expands, excavation in preparation for new construction revealed ancient buildings in the surrounding area. Structures with colorful mosaic floors and dozens of rooms hint at how people may have lived and worked in centuries gone by.
Background here.

The Samaritans in Recent Research

The Samaritans in Recent Research

We now know from the Dead Sea discoveries that texts similar to the Samaritan Pentateuch were circulating together with texts that foreshadow the Masoretic text and the Septuagint. No “sectarian” differences are present in these manuscripts, which means that the so-called pre-Samaritan texts were used side by side with the other versions. Thus, in its substance, the Pentateuch was common to Yahwistic Samarians and and Yahwistic Judeans long before the Samarian Yhwh worshipers parted company with the latter.

See Also: The Samaritans: A Profile (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2016).

By Reinhard Pummer
Department of Classics and Religious Studies
University of Ottawa
December 2015
PaleoJudaica has endless posts on both the ancient and the modern Samaritans. See, for example, here and here and follow the links. Or, for much more, run "Samaritans" through the search engine.

Helmut Koester, 1926-2016

SAD NEWS: Preeminent New Testament Scholar Helmut Koester Passes Away at 89 (Harvard Divinity School).
Helmut Koester, John H. Morison Professor of New Testament Studies and Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History Emeritus, died on New Year’s Day, 2016, at age 89.

Koester was a leading scholar in the history of Christianity, New Testament exegesis and theology, the religions of the ancient Roman world, and archeology.

Requiescat in pace.

Burials at a construction site in Jerusalem

AGAIN, A GRAVE MATTER: Israel Nixes Excavation of Ancient Jerusalem Burial Site in Area Slated for Homes. Antiques Authority forced to leave site after Shas leader Arye Dery raised issue with Netanyahu, who ordered that work be stopped (Yair Ettinger, Haaretz).
Under pressure from the ultra-Orthodox Knesset factions, the Israel Antiquities Authority on Tuesday stopped its excavation of ancient burial caves in an area slated for a new residential neighborhood in south Jerusalem. The caves were discovered in the neighborhood of Gilo, in an area where 708 apartments are to be built, about half of them for ultra-Orthodox families.

The halakhic and financial issues are complex and contentious:
Out of the 708 apartments, 354 have been allocated to ultra-Orthodox associations. According to ultra-Orthodox sources, a compromise was suggested by which the developers would forego the apartments on the first floor and the buildings would be built on pillars, which is an acceptable solution under Jewish law. The developers reportedly agreed to the idea, on condition that they be compensated by the Construction Ministry. The Construction Ministry meanwhile has refused to compensate the developers.

According to officials familiar with the details, the antiquities authority decided to leave the site Tuesday due to Dery’s request from Netanyahu, which led to the latter ordering that work be stopped in an attempt to reach a compromise.
Past posts on similar situations are here, here, and here. And there's this. We're clearly dealing with some historically crowded real estate. And this seems relevant too.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Implications of Hezekiah's bulla

EPIGRAPHY: Hezekiah Seal Proves Ancient Jerusalem Was a Major Judahite Capital. Similar seal impressions had already been found – by thieves. This one uniquely found in situ proves King Hezekiah’s connection to the LMLK symbols and the existence of an advanced Judahite administration (Julia Fridman, Haaretz).
The uniqueness of the seal impression announced in December lies in its being a rare solid piece of evidence that Jerusalem housed a major Judahite royal administration. Almost all other seals and bullae from the Judahite era had been illegally dug up and sold by antiquities thieves, rendering them valueless to archaeologists because of their uncertain provenance and questionable authenticity.
Although, as the article observes, the iconography of the seal doesn't offer any great support to the biblical picture of Hezekiah as an anti-idolatry reformer.

Background here and links.

Encyclopedia Talmudit anniversary

EVENT: Encyclopedia Talmudit celebrates 70 years. Ceremony to mark one of the greatest contributions of modern society to the continuation of Jewish and halachic literature (Orli Harrari, Arutz Sheva).
A special ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the publication of the Encyclopedia Talmudit will take place at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on Monday.

Seventy years ago, Rabbi Meir Bar Ilan and Rabbi Shlomo Zevin created the Encyclopedia Talmudit. More than 1 million editions have been published and it comprises 1,300 entries. The encyclopedia is one of the more important publications in the Jewish tradition and even high-ranking judges have used it and quoted it while formulating their legal decisions.

Event organizers have stated that the encyclopedia is a work that is unlike any other in halachic literature in its explanation and summarization of the large body of knowledge of halachic literature from the time period of the Tanach until modern times.

More on the Encyclopedia Talmudit is here.

The Talmud says that God studies Torah

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Talmud: God Studies Torah, Too. From a single biblical verse about divorce is spun an edifice of legal wrangling, including a first discussion of what, geographically, constitutes ‘the Land of Israel.’ There's a lot going on in the current readings.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

New Ethiopic program at Toronto

ETHIOPIC WATCH: Launch of Ethiopic Studies Program at the University of Toronto (Alpha Abebe, Tadias Magazine). They are still raising support for the program, but the University will be offering Ge'ez (Old Ethiopic) next year. That's a good start.

December Biblical Studies Carnival

JENNIFER GUO: Biblical Studies Carnival – December 2015. Goodbye 2015.

Monday, January 04, 2016

More on Eve and Adam's penis-bone

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: A Flaccid Interpretation of Eden – By Joseph Ryan Kelly. This is a review of Ziony Zevit's book, What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?, which has recently been receiving some media attention. The attention focuses on Zevit's theory that, according to the Garden of Eden story, Eve was created from Adam's penis-bone rather than his rib. This review was published last March, but I did not note it at the time. It covers a range of things in the book, but gives considerable space to the question of that bone and the reviewer is not convinced by the theory. Excerpt:
Has Zevit pulled back the curtain on these early chapters of Genesis? While his use of philology and historical criticism forces us to reconsider interpretations often taken for granted, his approach does not produce confident conclusions. Does God really create Hawwa, Eve, out of Adam’s penile bone? Genesis 2:21 describes God removing one of Adam’s ribs or ṣelaot. To incorporate this detail into his interpretation, Zevit translates the term ṣela as “lateral bone.” Imagining the baculum as belonging to a category of lateral bones strikes me as a specious argument. But perhaps more pressing is the way this proposed etiology differs from other etiologies involving humans in the Hebrew Bible. Elsewhere, biblical texts use past events to explain cultural institutions or customs.
Worth reading in full. Background here.

Magic and that silver scroll

CANDIDA MOSS: When Christians, Muslims, and Jews Loved Magic. A silver scroll found in Jordan is a reminder of how big the market for ‘magic’ objects was in ancient Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. (The Daily Beast).
The newly discovered scroll may well suggest that Arabs in 8th century Jerash were adopting the religious practices of their Jewish, Christian, Greek, and Roman neighbors. But it also reminds us that one woman’s magic is another woman’s religion.
The discovery of this silver scroll was recently noted and commented on here.

The Study Quran

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: The Study Quran (John Turner).
Thus, I’m extremely pleased by the appearance of HarperOne’s The Study Quran, a project headed by Seyyed Nasr. One of my colleagues at George Mason, Maria Dakake, is one of the contributing editors.

The publication of The Study Quran is a landmark. It contains an original translation of the Quran, which is also very readable. It also contains an extensive scholarly apparatus, pointing readers to the ways that Quranic verses have been interpreted, especially during the first several centuries after the life of the Prophet Muhammad. This is enormously useful, as are the topical essays, which discuss everything from Sufism to Islamic art to “Death, Dying, and the Afterlife in the Quran.” The careful introductions to hadith sources at the back of the volume are also very helpful.

Unlike the Harper Collins Study Bible, at least as far as I can discern, The Study Quran is less concerned with introducing students to critical (i.e., non-Muslim or very progressive Muslim) scholarship on the Quran, so it is not an exact parallel. Nevertheless, I’m very grateful to have something to assign for my introductory students that will help them make better sense of the Qur’an and how Muslims have interpreted it.
I've been meaning to note this important publication for some time, so this is a good opportunity. I haven't yet seen it myself, but I'm looking forward to hearing more about it.

Daniel Matt reads the Idra Zuta

ZOHAR WATCH: Daniel Matt reads his Idra Zuta Zohar translation.
Near the very end of the Zohar on the Torah comes the remarkable section known as Idra Zuta (The Small Assembly). This dramatic narrative describes the last gathering of Rabbi Shim'on and the Companions before his death. Here the master reveals profound mysteries of divine being, and then departs from this world to unite ecstatically with the Divine Feminine, Shekhinah. ...
Background on the Zohar and on Daniel Matt's edition and translation of it is here with many, many links. The Shekhinah figures in that post as well.

More on Marshak, The Many Faces of Herod the Great

EUANGELION BLOG: A Great New Book About Herod the Great (Joel Willitts). A brief notice with additional references. I noted the book earlier here and here.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

The state of the question on the Son of Man

REMNANT OF GIANTS: The assured results of Son of Man scholarship. Yep, that about sums it up.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Citizen - In Hebrew: EzraH. It means a "native-born" Israelite in biblical Hebrew.

Goff, "Ben Sira and the Giants"

RECENTLY UPLOADED TO ACADEMIA.EDU: "Ben Sira and the Giants of the Land: A Note on Ben Sira 16:7" (Matthew Goff, JBL 129, no. 4 (2010): 645–655).
In this short note I address the common claim that Sir 16:7 alludes to Gen6:1–4. I argue that understanding the verse in this way is not unreasonable but thatthis position needs to be qualified. The primary reference of the line is not the floodstory but archaic peoples of the land. Genesis 6 and early Jewish traditions that per-tain to this chapter influence Ben Sira’s description of archaic Canaanite rulers.

More on YU's Arch of Titus MOOC

ONLINE EDUCATION: YU Joins World of Online Education with Arch of Titus Class (Eitan Lipsky, The Commentator).
Although Chanukah has concluded, Yeshiva University is still trying to spread its light as far as it can. In early December, the university took a big step in expanding its global impact by releasing a course entitled, “Arch of Titus: Rome and the Menorah,” on Coursera, a company that works with top universities to make some of their courses available online as massive open online courses (known colloquially as MOOCs).

This Yeshiva University online course has already been noted here, but this article has additional background and information. Follow the latter link for lots more on the Arch of Titus, and see also here.

Jason, Repentance at Qumran

Repentance at Qumran: The Penitential Framework of Religious Experience in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Author: Mark A. Jason (Author)
Series: Emerging Scholars

Mark A. Jason offers a detailed investigation of the place of repentance in the Dead Sea Scrolls, addressing a significant lacuna in Qumran scholarship. Normally, when the belief system of the community is examined, “repentance” is usually taken for granted or relegated to a peripheral position. By careful attention to key texts, Jason establishes the importance of repentance as a fundamental way of structuring and describing religious experience within the Qumran community. Repentance was important not only for entry into the community and covenant but also for daily governance and cultic activities, and even for authenticating understanding of the end times. Jason shows, then, that repentance was a central and decisive element in shaping that community’s identity and undergirded its religious experience from the start. Further, comparison with relevant texts from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha shows that the Qumran community represented a distinctive penitential movement in Second Temple Judaism.

ISBN: 9781451485301
Price: $59.00
Release date: February 1, 2015
Pages: 208
Width: 6
Height: 9
Emerging Scholars: Bible

ISBN: 9781451494273
Price: $59.00
HT the IOQS Facebook page.